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Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z.

Rangiuia in a Rage

Rangiuia in a Rage

Polack goes on to say that the natives filled his casks with water, and, after chopping all night, brought him enough wood to supply a ship of 500 tons for twelve months. He went on shore with a carpet bag containing a variety of trifles much in repute among natives, together with some tobacco, tomahawks, hoes, etc., which were much more highly prized. Several large pigs were bought by him “at a reasonable rate.” Meantime, the repairs to the cutter proceeded. Her anchorage lay between two native settlements—one on the north bank and the other on the south bank of the river. Much jealousy prevailed between their respective occupiers.

On the fourth day of Polack's visit, the deck was crowded with natives from the northern village, who were selling nets, fishing lines and flax garments, for nails, fish-hooks, tobacco, lead, page 86 musket flints, etc. Without any warning, a chief belonging to the southern settlement fired a musket loaded with ball.

“Rangihuia [Rangiuia] a chief of the south side, who was residing with his friends in the north village, being in disgrace with his relatives … instantly threw off his garments, tightened his belt, and, with the most ferocious gestures, vehemently demanded that his friends and all on board should leave the vessel. Seizing a rope, and indifferent to rank, age or sex, he soon cleared her. With horrid distortion of features, he then commenced a war speech, vociferating with all his might and defying the southern tribe with language and gestures equally obscene and disgusting. He then hastened on shore to the northern village, and was met by the chiefs and slaves, who were entirely naked and all armed with muskets; his fury appeared to be augmented by finding himself once again on terra firma. A war dance was commenced on either side of the river and each party, during its continuance, brandished their muskets, making further gesticulations and shouting towards each other curses of defiance.
“Rangihuia flew up and down the beach—a representation of an infuriated demon. His tongue was thrust out to its utmost length, his eyes glared with the frenzy of a ruthless fiend. No horrible grimace was omitted that could strike terror into the enemy. The muskets, which had been hastily loaded with ball, were now discharged by either party against the other; but, instead of the butt being placed against the shoulder, the pieces were hastily levelled without aim, the stock being lodged against the hip. The parties were out of reach of the flying balls; otherwise, destructive work might have ensued. However, we, being within reach of either side, suffered not a little damage to our sails. Suddenly, within ten minutes of the first gun being fired, a cessation of war took place…. Dancing, gaiety and indiscriminate intercourse followed on either side, as if nothing had happened, each boasting of his valorous exploits.”

Polack says that, had any accident happened by mere chance to any of the parties during the mad contest, he and his crew would have had to bear the brunt: the vessel would, probably, have been plundered and destroyed, and they would have been slain.